Friday, October 30, 2015

What a Week Five for Friday

Costume parade... Party... DRAs... Math test... What a week it's been! I'm glad it's Friday, and I'm happy to be linking up with Kacey at Doodlebugs Teaching for Five for Friday. Unfortunately, I once again kept forgetting to take photos!

My colleague had each of his students write a persuasive letter from a pumpkin's point of view. The children brainstormed reasons why someone would want a particular type of pumpkin to make a Jack O'Lantern. Then, they thought of reasons someone would NOT want a particular pumpkin. The students wrote persuasive letters trying to convince the farmer NOT to pick them.  One of our very talented and creative paraprofessionals put up this bulletin board.

In my classroom, we've started a unit on narrative writing. My co-teacher and I have taught about techniques for writing entertaining beginnings. We've also reviewed using the five senses and specific details to write vivid descriptions.  Each story will be written from the point of view of a turkey, and there must be a problem or an adventure.  We did a bit of turkey research so we could pull a few facts into our narratives.  One great resource is Second Grade Stories' Turkey Talk: A Nonfiction Mini-Unit.  

This week, I pulled out some fairy tales written from different points of view. The students read them, discussed them, and wrote about them while I pulled kids to give DRAs one-on-one.  Engaging and valuable!  What was on our reading list?  
I also happened upon a brief video inspired by Jon Scieszka's version.  The kids loved it! The wolf only LOOKS terrifying! Really!

As an aside, there are also different versions of Jack and the Beanstalk. To grab a freebie passage, click here.  

Today we had our annual costume parade and party.  I don't actually celebrate Halloween, so it's not really my favorite thing.  The kids, however, have a ball. Today they had very high energy levels and very big smiles. The photo is of my principal. 

Now that Halloween is behind us, I've pulled out the Thanksgiving books! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I've already read aloud Turk and Runt: A Thanksgiving Comedy by Lisa Wheeler. The idea was to inspire students as they write their own turkey stories.

Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving books? I'm always looking for new titles, so please share!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Exact Answer or Estimate FREEBIE

My third graders have been working and working and working on rounding!  Finally, I think they've got it! Once students actually seemed to have a solid grasp of the concept, we started applying our rounding skills to estimating.  

First, I modeled some problems and had the students practice using resources from one of my products: Rounding and Estimating Practice

Next, we sorted some story problems.  Some problems asked students to estimate. Some required students to find the exact answer.  

I used this as a guided practice activity so I could be sure students knew exactly how I wanted them to show their work.  These problems all had clue words.  I don't teach students to rely heavily on clue words, however.  I make a point of teaching them other strategies such as visualizing and drawing part-part-whole diagrams.  

If you'd like to grab this freebie, you can get it in my store by clicking here.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Keeping Desks Tidy

Avalanche! That's what I would think my first year of teaching 3rd grade when my student (we'll call him Sam) would back away from his desk.  His body held in all the stuff that was crammed in there.  When he'd push his chair back, a cascade of books and papers and pencils and crayons would spill out on the floor. This usually happened more than once per day.

That was about 13 years ago.  My students still have desks, but they're much tidier now. Here's what most of the desks look like.

Here are my tips for helping students keep their desks tidy.  

Don't allow students to keep more than 3 books in their desks at a time.  My students have book bags. They aren't fancy... just gallon size plastic bags. Each week, students can book shop.  Their books stay in their book bags which frees up LOTS of desk space.

Have folders. My students have an unfinished work folder and a writing folder to keep in their desks.  Unfinished assignments and items we'll refer to again go into the unfinished work folder. To help with organization, these folders can be labeled with a "To Do" side and a "Save" side.  Our writing folder is for works in progress.  Students keep notes, graphic organizers, and drafts in their writing folders. 

I spend time modeling the correct way to place papers into the folders. Otherwise, students will stick the papers in crooked or--worse yet--in the MIDDLE of the folder, which leaves not-so-lovely creases. I am very strict about not allowing students to cram papers into their desks.

Pencil boxes are a must in my room. Students keep pencils, dry erase materials, erasers, crayons, scissors, and gluesticks in these.  For some students, I've handed out an extra pencil box because they've brought markers, colored pencils, and huge packs of crayons from home.  These students have a "coloring supplies" pencil box and a regular pencil box.  

Now, you can lead a third grader to a pencil box, but you can't make him or her put the pencils IN IT!  I was getting frustrated with pencils that would roll out of desks.  Then, I discovered the best freebie ever! It's called "Friend of Pencils" and was created by The Wise Owl Teacher

Students get a small reward on Monday if they have kept track of and not mutilated their stash of pencils. Do yourself a HUGE favor and try it for yourself. I've been using the friend of pencils system for three years. In all that time, I haven't heard a student yell, "I DON'T HAVE A PENCIL!" I've also found there to be a lot fewer chewed, over-sharpened, and intentionally broken pencils!

Have a spot outside of the desks for textbooks that aren't used regularly.  Why clutter up the inside of the desks if you don't need to?  Keeping textbooks out of the desks keeps them from getting damaged, too. 

Do semi-regular desk checks.  Before dismissal, I'll sometimes stop my last lesson of the day five minutes early.  I'll have students sit at their seats. Then, I'll say, "Bend down and look into your desk. Is it tidy? Are there pencils rolling around? Are there papers not in folders? Take a couple of minutes to tidy up your desk."  As students finish "tidying", I'll call a few at a time to pack up and get ready for dismissal. Being very specific is key!

These tips have been discovered over a number of years. Hopefully they're helpful to you. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

FREEBIE Five for Friday

It's Saturday, it's colder than it's been yet in the Northeast, and my furnace needs fixing! Arghh.  My husband is currently taking care of it, because he ROCKS.  I'm wearing two sweaters and have the electric fireplace running.  I think I'll simmer some soup. That will warm up the kitchen! Before I do that, though, I'm linking up with Kacey at Doodlebugs Teaching for Five for Friday. 

We've been working on making and confirming predictions and on making inferences in reading. Something I like to do each year is have students apply these skills by reading mysteries in small groups. I'm using Amy Lemons's Mystery Mini-Unit.  It can be used with any mystery book. I usually add an extra clue page and an extra suspect page to the booklet.  Each of my students received his or her own case file envelope which contained a mystery, a new pencil, and a case file notebook.  My students were so adorable when they opened their envelopes for the first time.  Seriously adorable. Check out Amy's blog to read about how she does her mystery book groups. My students have been reading, discussing, and recording their thinking on post-it notes.  They jot down suspects, clues, questions they have while reading, and new or tricky vocabulary words. When I meet with them, we do some reading and discuss the students' notes.  I also incorporated some nonfiction passages from to build the children's background knowledge.

This week I incorporated some autumn-themed activities into my centers. I pulled out materials from my Apple Season Math and Literacy Activities: syllable sorting cards and a subject/predicate center.  I also used candy corn in a guided review center. As I've done frequently in the past, I borrowed and adapted a great idea by Amy Lemons. (Doesn't that name sound familiar?)  She shared on her blog that she used pieces of candy corn as greater than/less than symbols. I adapted her idea by creating equations for students to compare. I gave them buttons with equal signs to use as well. You can grab a free copy of the sheet I used by clicking here

Last weekend, we went on a little foliage drive. We ended up in Massachusetts at a mountain popular for skiing. My husband, Seth, and I would've gone on the Sky Ride, but Gabrielle looked absolutely terrified at the thought. Her little hands got clammy and cold! So, we skipped it and drove up to the summit.  To those of you who live in states with FOR REAL mountains, a summit of 2,006 feet probably doesn't sound very impressive at all!

We've been working on rounding in math.  I always begin by having students skip count with me by tens and hundreds. This shows them that numbers in the hundreds and even thousands can still be multiples of ten. That kind of frazzles their third-grade minds at first!  We always use number lines to round. 

Better with parsley 

Herbie and Sunshine sharing the chair

Tough cats can sleep on pink!

He's using me for warmth. I know it.

Fall is gorgeous and a little bit chilly here in Connecticut.  The cats have been getting cuddlier, probably because they are cold.  Also, I made pumpkin soup because it's a fallish kind of food to eat. Those two bits of news don't relate particularly well, but I wanted to share them both and was already on number five!  So, please just humor me!

Thanks for stopping by! Have a good week.